Caregivers can take many forms. Since a caregiver is anyone who provides paid or unpaid care for someone who is ill, frail, vulnerable, elderly, incapacitated, or disabled, there are many people who can be called caregivers—including home health aides, nurses, medical doctors, and mental health professionals (such as licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, and counselors).
Those of us caring for a friend or family member do not always consider ourselves caregivers, however, by the definition, we are also officially caregivers.
According to the AARP, during 2020 more than one in five Americans (21%) were caregivers who provided care to an adult or child with special needs. This means 53 million Americans adults were caregivers in 2020—an increase from 43 million caregivers in 2015.
Following the added stress of the COVID trauma from the COVID-19 pandemic, caregiver burnout is becoming a problem of epic proportions throughout the U.S.
Caring for others in need can be a full-time job. It's important that you don't forget about caring for yourself.
Follow this checklist to ensure you are also taking care of your own mental health and overall wellness:
1. Prioritize your own self-care activities and routines. Making time for your own self-care activities is a positive way to protect your physical and mental wellbeing while caring for others.
2. Take breaks. Be sure you are scheduling and taking breaks to rest, relax, and recharge. Consider employing the help of some of the paid caregivers listed in the section below to allow you more structured days and times for breaks.
3. Practice self-compassion. Nurture your own emotional wellness. People who practice self-compassion have lower levels of anxiety and depression and less fear of failure.
4. Eat nutritious food. Remember to give yourself time for healthy snacks and sit-down meals. It will help sustain you through the difficult and important work you are doing.
5. Make time for mindfulness exercises or mindfulness therapy. Practicing mindfulness exercises and mindfulness-based therapy (MBT) sessions have been shown to decrease stress and increase focus and happiness.
6. Get adequate sleep. Sleep is vital for our physical and mental health, and if you aren't getting enough sleep, or enough quality sleep, or you're suffering from insomnia or waking up in the middle of the night all the time, you will quickly start to feel the effects.
7. Seek mental health support from a licensed therapist. Caring can be hard work that is stressful and isolating. Consequently, many caregivers need their own support system from a counselor or therapist. Here's how to find a licensed therapist near you. More info on this below.
If you need to find paid caregivers for someone in your family, Caregiver.com gets specific about four types of paid caregivers for adults. These include options such as:
Adult daycare center. Adult daycare centers provide care services for adults in a community-based setting. The programs are uniquely designed to offer several medical, social, and other types of support in a safe setting. Their services cover part of the day when adults need supervised care outside their home. You may consider this kind of care if your loved one has extended periods of isolation, is unsafe to be left alone, or cannot manage their daily activities on their own.
Home healthcare. Home healthcare allows your loved ones to receive care in the comfort of their homes. Ideally, caregivers come into the home to provide flexible services, ranging from a few hours per week to 24/7 care.
Assisted living facilities. Assisted living facilities care services don't have a fixed model. Typically, this kind of care varies in size, appearance, and services offered. Assisted living is the most popular option as it provides a myriad of social programs in a community setting for residents to live and enjoy active lives. Plus, some may have hair salons, workout facilities, a community garden, and swimming pools.
Nursing homes. Nursing homes offer two types of care: short-term rehabilitative care and long-term care for chronic conditions. Nursing homes are ideal for long-term care patients suffering from acute illness or surgery that results in an inability to live alone. Most nursing homes provide rehabilitative therapies and medical services.
Regardless of the type of caregiver, most perform some or all of the tasks below:
Assistance with bathing and dressing
Assistance with moving from one location to another
Shopping for groceries, meal planning, and preparation
Physical and mental exercises
Checking blood pressure and insulin levels, as well as other minor medical tasks
Companionship and emotional support
If you are experiencing feelings of stress or even burnout from the duties and burdens of caregiving, we recommend that you speak with a licensed therapist or counselor for support.
The Monarch Directory by SimplePractice can help you find a licensed mental health professional near you—many who accept insurance and offer in-person or telehealth video sessions, online booking, and free initial 15-minute consultations.